Living with purpose isn’t about how much we do. It is NOT about making ourselves feel better or relevant. Living with purpose is about having a heart for others that compels us to serve our brothers and sisters. Purpose is the result of a changed heart that propels us into action, with little thought about what we get out of it. It is a heart that overflows with excitement to be there for another human—to share our love and our gifts that someone’s life too may be changed.
I have come to understand from my own journey that I was fully capable of spending all my time volunteering or pulling my friends out of the fire—because it made me feel important and wanted. I firmly believed that if I could become indispensable in someone’s life they would appreciate me and love me. Many of these relationships were one-sided and left me feeling used. The word for this is codependent! It comes to those of us who may have felt unworthy of attention or when we suffer from a raging lack of self-esteem. And when they no longer ‘needed’ me, I was right back where I started—alone and questioning my worth.
I was reading Ecclesiastes 4 today—you know the verses made famous by The Byrds’ song; “Turn! Turn! Turn!” Through the seasons of our lives, the needs around us and in our personal journeys, change. Those starting careers may find it hard to give much of their time for others. Those with families to manage may not know how to manage time to serve in their community. Those who are entering or in retirement, may not feel they have anything left to offer. Maybe you are at a point where you have a couple extra hours to give and aren’t sure those minutes are enough. Or you have many, many empty hours in your day and don’t know where to start.
I encourage you start by thinking about the unpleasantness around you. What is that one thing that just gets under your skin and you can’t stop thinking about? What brings tears to your eyes? What do you wish you could attack and bring change into?
- Give it a name and write it down.
- Make a list of four things you wish you could change in that area. Don’t hold back or question if you can make a difference or not—just write down those four things, each on a page of their own.
- Then under each of those headings, write three things you would do if you had the time. Again, don’t decide you can’t do something—just write the list.
- Now stop and pray about those things. Maybe pray for several days. Pray as a family. Ask your friends to pray with you. Ask God to help you to see your purpose in this season of your life. As that you begin to see a picture of you in service. Create a vision of yourself doing something.
- Now come back to your list. Under each heading add what gifts, talents, or skills you could bring to make a difference. These are the gifts God has given to you that come naturally. These are the things you love doing that you already know brings you joy. These are the gifts that will bring pleasantness and beauty in Christ’s name for others.
- Now comes the tough part. What are you willing to do with the gifts God has blessed you with that you might bless and encourage another? How much time are you willing to give to lift the lives of others and bring them joy—while bringing honor to God? What are you willing to do next with the love you know, that others too may know God’s love? Be honest about your time and consider what you might let go of to make more time. Add those to each of your headings.
- Circle the one thing out of the four that you just can’t take your eyes off of. Which is the one that you keep coming back to? Which one has the longest list?
This most likely is what you can do in this season of your life. The other three items may never go away. They may come back to you at a different time in your life. Today you can start a plan to make a difference by giving away the gifts you have already received. I encourage you now to seek out those opportunities. Make a list of all the organizations with whom you can partner. And if you can’t find the right organization—start talking to other like-minded people to see if perhaps you need to lead a new ministry or service group.
Keep praying. Keep seeking. Keep moving forward. You will find that the more you focus on the needs of others, the less important and dire your needs are. You will find that when you are willing to offer your hours of labor for others, God will bring an unexpected blessing into your life. For me, that blessing has been a joy and peace I never knew possible. I have stopped searching for my purpose and rather focus on his purpose for me. I have stopped doing so that I feel important and needed and am letting God guide me to those areas where he will shine through me. It is all about him and them and my willingness to act.
It isn’t complicated. We have tools. We can use those tools. We should pass them along. Lives will change. We will change. God is good!